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Senior Thesis on Lives of Artists of Color Goes Public

Raisins in a Glass of Milk, the result of 40 interviews with people of color, comes to the stage of the Cornish Playhouse’s Alhadeff Studio at Seattle Center. Don't miss the limited run at the Alhadeff Studio, August 25 to 27.

Three recent alumni, Maya Burton ’16, Alexandria Chipman ’16, and Sherif Amin '16 turned their senior thesis into the one-act play, Raisins in a Glass of Milk. The evocative title comes from Burton's own experiences. “Before I went off to college,” said Burton, “I had a  mentor I deeply trust, tell me, ‘Get ready, girl, because being Black in the theater is like being the only raisin left in your bowl of milk.’ When I heard that, of course I laughed and didn't really think about it. Then I left home, South Florida, and moved to Seattle, and I quickly understood exactly what he was talking about.”

After being workshopping the play this past spring, the three, now alumni, were invited to restage it as part of Cornish Presents, Cornish College of the Arts' visiting and professional artists series. So Raisins in a Glass of Milk opens the fall season of Cornish Presents. It runs for three nights only,  August 25–27, at the Alhadeff Studio at the Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center.

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Raisins features six actors who play multiple characters who tell the unique stories of the nearly 40 people the two then-seniors interviewed as part of their research into the experiences of artists of color in a time when the discussion of race is sparking debates across the country. With their interview transcripts in hand, they pulled all those stories into a one-act conversation about what it's like to be a person of color, an actor of color, and an artist of color in today’s America. There’s plenty to be serious about, but there are many moods in the piece.

“Essentially we bring the hilarious, heart-breaking, and shocking events that artists of color experience out if the darkness and into the spotlight,” wrote Chipman and Burton in a recent email exchange, “while aiming to prove that People of Color should finally be seen as a standard, essential part of storytelling as opposed to stereotypes, controversies, and out-of-date statements”

Raisins in a Glass of Milk is one of a number of thesis projects undertaken by seniors in the Theater Department’s Musical Theater concentration. It was performed at that time with the participation of then-freshmen Malaya Valenzuela, Mykail Gholston, and Pablo Lopez.

Burton and Chipman created Raisins long with Sherif Amin, who was an actor and a producer. During that rehearsal process, they workshopped the script, constantly using input from their director Rafael Molina, the points of view of the cast, and from their dramaturg Jeramiah Holt ’17, "who questioned us from the perspective of a white person," according to the pair. They also credit a number of mentors who helped them rehearse the piece, faculty members Katjana Vadeboncoeur Pierce, Kathleen Collins, Carol Roscoe, Rhonda J Soikowski, Elizabeth Heffron, Shelia Daniels, of course Timothy McCuen Piggee, and “our fearless leader, the chair of the Theater Department, Richard E.T. White.”

Appearing with Chipman, Amin,  and Burton onstage in Raisins in a Glass of Milk are Marco Adiak Voli '17, Brandon Haugabook '18, and Amber Tanaka '18 under the direction of Molina '16. The production is stage-managed by Performance Production grad Emily Cioc '16.